Recruiting great drivers is tough enough, but retaining top drivers is even tougher. While the driver shortage is the main obstacle to recruitment, turnover is the reason it is difficult to retain truck drivers. It’s no secret that the industry faces high turnover rates. According to some surveys, over 50% of newly hired drivers will leave their carriers within the first six months.
Apart from offering higher and higher salaries and compensation packages, the real answer to the turnover problem is driver engagement. Drivers who are engaged with the job and the company are better and safer drivers and are more likely to stick around for longer. Here are four CDL truck driver retention strategies to maximize driver engagement.
1. Listen to and Act on Driver Feedback
Drivers want to feel like their voice matters and that they are being heard. Having strong communication with drivers is just the beginning. Make sure everyone in your organization, especially dispatchers, are aware of the importance of good communication with drivers. Fleet managers should regularly solicit driver feedback on a variety of issues, especially the types of jobs, routes, hauls, and schedules they prefer. Asking drivers for their feedback on how satisfactory the job has been so far also shows that the company cares about them as individuals. There are dozens of questions you can ask in driver engagement surveys.
However, asking drivers for their feedback isn’t enough. Acting on driver feedback is what distinguishes a great company from a good company.
Fleet managers should always aim to improve something for the sake of a driver’s preference unless they have a very good reason not to. And when you can’t act on their feedback, let them know why that’s the case. You’ll be surprised how understanding and appreciative they’ll be that you made the effort. When you interact with drivers as partners in problem solving, it will make them feel more engaged with the company and valued as employees. This strengthens driver loyalty and makes it less likely that they will leave the fleet.
2. Training and Professional Development
One of the reasons drivers will leave a company is because of inadequate training or because they feel their professional needs aren’t being met by the company. By making training and development an integral part of the relationship with drivers, truck driver retention will naturally increase. In addition to preparing them for the road, a proper onboarding and training program signals to employees that you can invest in their careers. They’ll be more likely to stick with your company if you provide continual professional development opportunities after the initial training.
Every three months or so, drivers should be eligible to engage in professional development seminars, workshops, and opportunities to connect with other drivers and learn from them.
One simple example is a mentorship program. Fleet managers can pair new drivers with experienced veterans based on their needs. The experienced truckers can mentor the younger employees on the joys and challenges of being a truck driver. This is a benefit for novices as it will help them improve and address their weaknesses. It is also a benefit for the veteran drivers who can also find mentorship extremely rewarding. Suddenly you’ve taken something that’s of benefit to the company and made it personally meaningful to employees. Retention will take care of itself once you’ve helped drivers feel more professionally engaged in their careers.
3. Equipment and Maintenance
There are few things drivers can’t stand more than having to deal with faulty equipment and vehicles. From their perspective, they’ve been hired for the driving job, not the maintenance job. If you don’t invest in quality equipment and trucks, it will frustrate your drivers for several reasons. First, it signals to drivers that the company isn’t willing to spend money on the trucks which drivers will be operating and often living out of. The optics can look really poor if your company is perceived to spend considerably on other areas at the expense of equipment and trucks. Second, drivers will be frustrated if fleet managers routinely expect drivers to address maintenance issues on the equipment. While the occasional minor maintenance issue might be fixed by the drivers, fleet managers shouldn’t expect that to become the norm. This is one of the top reasons why drivers decline jobs or leave jobs.
In addition to having regular inspections conducted, there are many things fleet managers can do to address maintenance issues. Implementing a fleet preventative maintenance plan will help you tackle the issues before they grow.
Some ELD solutions also automatically monitor fault codes through connection with vehicle diagnostics. The ELD will alert fleet managers about maintenance issues directly. Remember that drivers aren’t expert or trained mechanics. If drivers perceive that the expectation is to either deal with driving faulty vehicles or repair them themselves, it won’t be long before they start considering leaving. Make sure your drivers know you stay on top of maintenance issues and watch truck driver retention become easier.
4. Driver Safety and Empowerment
Part of a fleet manager’s responsibility is to ensure safety and improve the working conditions for drivers. Building a culture of safety is necessary baseline that every company should strive for. You can signal to your drivers that safety is a priority by investing in compliance measures and driver coaching, rather than paying regulatory fines. If you emphasize to drivers that their actions matter, they will feel empowered to make safer decisions.
Back up your words with rewards and recognition for safe drivers. You should try to use the carrot more than the stick. Incentivize good behavior rather than punishing bad behavior.
Drivers with the best safety scores and lowest unsafe driving behavior can be offered financial or other rewards. In addition to encouraging drivers to be safer on the road, it also boosts loyalty and retention.
Embrace new technology like front-facing dashcams and electronic logging devices. In case of accidents, these devices can help you see things from the drivers’ perspective. Protect your drivers from false claims when they aren’t at fault. Building an empowerment culture for drivers goes beyond just protecting them. Solicit driver feedback on what which working conditions they’d like to see improved. For many, it may be the hours on the road, the number of stops allowed, home time etc. You’d be surprised at how many small requests from drivers you are able to easily fulfill. Finding small ways to keep drivers happy, or having them know that you’re trying, goes a long way to building loyalty and retention.
Drivers leave jobs for many reasons. Higher salary and better benefits are not the only factors which affect driver turnover. Building an engaged and loyal driver base can be easier than offering the highest salaries. Often, the small things add up and drivers will realize they are happier at your company than at a competitor who pays more but doesn’t care more. Implement these four CDL truck driver retention strategies to help your drivers stay for years.